Rain or shine, tom turkeys are courting mates in the Northeast Oregon woods. Many have left wintering haunts and are moving to spring nesting areas. Many of these birds will move up to 15 miles on this spring migration. Oregonís general spring turkey season begins on April 15 and runs to May 31. Jim Ward photo
Hunters can expect plenty of opportunities to bag a turkey this spring season
by Casey Kellas/The Observer
April is right around the corner, and with that comes the spring turkey hunting season.
This year’s spring hunt figures to be a good one, helped by the mild winter and the warm weather the area has seen recently.
Hunters can anticipate bagging a turkey early on in the season, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist Jim Cadwell.
“I expect a lot of young birds taken in the first four or five days (of the season),” Cadwell said.
“Young, male birds will be less cautious. You’ll catch them making mistakes more often than not.”
As with years past, youth hunters will have the first crack with the annual youth hunt, scheduled this year for April 13-14. Hunters, age 17 years and younger, are eligible to participate in this hunt.
An adult, 21 years or older, who may not hunt, must accompany not more than one youth hunter. Hunters must possess a 2013 spring turkey tag.
Youths with an unfilled tag may also hunt during the general spring turkey season, which runs April 15 through May 31.
The youth hunt is a good way to introduce youngsters to the sport, according to Phil Gillette of La Grande.
“It’s a good thing to do before kids get into big game hunting,” said Gillette, who has participated in the youth hunt in previous years with both his son and his daughter.
“It got the kids exposed to hunting. And turkeys are exciting. The birds are vocal and kind of put on a show.”
Gillette said that of the four or five times he participated in the hunt, his youth hunter was successful in getting a bird. But he also added that the two-day event is more than just the opportunity to bag a bird.
“It’s a good time to spend with kids in a non-pressure situation,” he said. “Spend some one-on-one time with the kids, and show them proper etiquette on how to hold the gun.”
Gillette echoed the sentiments of Cadwell, saying that he expects a lot of good chances to get a bird in the first week of the season.
“Get the bird out of the way early,” Gillette said. “I think it’s going to end early if it stays dry.”
Easy access to mountain roads for this time of year will also help hunters, Cadwell added.
“There is snow at some of the higher levels still, but there is decent access at the lower levels.”
Cadwell said that the majority of turkeys can be found in northern Union County, with scattered groups in the Catherine Creek unit, especially Southern Catherine Creek.
He encourages hunters to get out and look for signs of turkeys ahead of time, including doing some shot calls, which
can be any loud noise — including slamming a car door — that might get a bird’s
“But don’t let (a bird) see you,” Cadwell stressed of doing a shot call. “Get a response but get out of there. It educates the bird (if it sees you).”
While most hunters like to set up before the crack of dawn to surprise the birds, Cadwell said that there will be plenty of opportunities to shoot a turkey anytime throughout the day this season.
One tip for inexperienced hunters that Cadwell offers is to watch how often you call.
“Don’t call too much,” he said. “Respond to the bird, don’t call to them. Every time you call it gives them a chance to locate you.
“If I was going to give a second or third tip, that would be it as well.”
The daily bag limit this season is one male turkey or one turkey with a visible beard.
The season limit is two legal turkeys, except that an additional legal turkey may be taken by hunters with a bonus turkey tag.
For a complete breakdown of the rules and regulations, see the 2012-13 Oregon Game Bird Regulations guide.